Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Experience at the SCBWI LA Conference – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Whew! What a whirlwind! It's really hard to describe how I feel after a conference like the one I just attended. I feel like a different person somehow. It seems like I felt everything at one time or another – inspired, at home with my tribe, like an outcast, like a pro, like an imposter, like one of the cool kids and like a dork.

I'm think this photo from the Black & White Gala sums up my experience perfectly:

I don't know these women, but I had to snap this pic when I saw their wonderful costumes. I have since learned that they are (right to left) Claudia Pearson, Jo Kittinger and Heather Montgomery.

The Good

Laura Zarrin, Tracy Bishop, Me and Debbie Meyer
OMG! I have never been so inspired in my life. It seems I learned something from every speech and breakout session I attended. I got to meet so many of my cyber friends and be surrounded by people who love children's books as much as I do.

I got to meet some of my heroes in the biz and hear some really moving speeches. Laurie Halse Anderson, Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, David Wiesner, Jarrett Krosoczka and Richard Peck where just some of the few who blew my socks off!
Rebecca Evans and I are ready to party!

I stayed with 2 of my friends I met online and had a blast. It was like we were at an 8th grade slumber party, and giggled a lot!

And the party was a blast. The only other national SCBWI conference I had attended before was in New York, and they don't have a party. It seems like the socializing aspect is a higher priority in LA.

The Bad

There were too many good breakouts that it was hard to pick which one to attend at any certain time. I'm glad I teamed up with my buddies and traded notes because I didn't want to miss anything.

Having so much crammed into 3 days is exhausting!  My brain and body ache . . . but is that such a bad thing?

The portfolio showcase was disappointing in that I didn't get to see very many. I just couldn't stand all the people crammed into such small aisles. I got a chance to look at maybe 10 portfolios before I started to get a little freaked out, then just grabbed some cards and left! Maybe the short time period allotted for the show can be extended a little next time, so all 1200 attendees aren't there at the same time!!

The only other bad thing I have to say is that at the Golden Kite Luncheon, where we where supposed to have been fed a sit-down meal, I feel I was gypped. 

As a vegetarian, I made sure that I checked that option when I signed up. When I told the waiter that, he sounded unsure as to whether there were any available. Then, when he did bring it out, I felt like the meal portion had been left out. It was a delicious "sandwich" of vegetables with portabella mushrooms substituting as the bread. Vegetables does not a meal make, people! I asked, along with the other hungry vegetarian at my table, if I could maybe have another roll, he said there weren't any more, but he could steal one from someone's table! REALLY?!? No protein + no grain = no meal!

And to add insult to injury, the chicken that was part of the regular meal was served on top of non-meat (I can't remember if they said they were filled with mushrooms or cheese) ravioli. HELLO - can us non-carnivores get some of that?!? We are humans who still like to eat meals - I thought that if anyone in the world got that, it was Californians! With the day being so filled up with lots of stuff to learn, my stomach went empty while my head was being filled with inspiration and knowledge.

The Ugly

I told myself that I wasn't going in with any unrealistic expectations, but I was still disappointed that I felt pretty much invisible. I had the imposter syndrome thing swirling in my head, since there were so many talented artists there that blew me away. As I mentioned above, I really wished I could see more portfolios, but maybe it's good that I didn't. I have been a graphic artist for more than 30 years and it still happens. Maybe that never stops. At least I got my stuff out there, right?

I think the first-look panel at the illustrator's intensive really added to my self-doubt. It wasn't what I was expecting at all. Our optional assignment was to enter 4 pieces, individually and anonymously, with labels of what genre you thought each piece fit into (books for toddlers, picture books middle grade, graphic novels, etc.).

I thought the panel was going to look at individual pieces of art with no knowledge of the artist, and give up their first impressions of the piece. I thought I could learn a lot from that! But they showed the panel the art beforehand, and as a grouping with the artist's name on them. And after they announced that the art they were about to show wasn't just what they liked, but something that fit into the discussion, they launched into a love-fest of a very small number of artists. Not much critique on what to improve, just that they loved each artist and why. More self doubt crept in.

I have loved this experience, even if it does bring some ugly thoughts and feelings to the surface. I am still reeling after a week – but from the inspiration, knowledge, fun and comraderie I experienced, and not from those ugly thoughts.  If you ever get a chance to attend one of these conferences, DO IT! You will be changed forever.